It's a strange thing, watching two people that are utterly miserable trying to live their lives; its always so compelling even though it should, technically speaking, be a dull affair. And this is what A Horrible Way to Die does for half of its running time. The other half, however, is the tale of a serial killer.
It effectively sets up two story lines. On the one hand, there is Sarah (Amy Seimetz) a recovering alcoholic who starts to date fellow A.A. attendee Kevin (Joe Swanberg). However, Sarah has a dark secret: she used to date a mass murderer. That serial killer (named Garrick Turrell and played by the ever-excellent A J Bown) has managed to escape and is in the process of tracking her down.
Now, camera-work has gotta be the bread and butter of any film. When it fails, the rest of the piece is left hanging by a thread and, for the first half an hour, A Horrible Way to Die dangles. Its filmed in shaky-cam to disorientate but this seems to serve no real purpose. It's more irritating than uncomfortable.
And then there is one moment, as the killer is using a young woman to make his way across a bridge, when the camera goes steady on his face. And its terrifying, an instance of total stillness produces the uncomfortable feeling that the previous 40 minutes had tried so hard to shake you into.
From this point on, things improve. Not enormously but enough to ensure that by the closing stages you'll be looking through your fingers. The music adds to this greatly, and is at times so hell-bent on oppressing that you shrink a little in your seat. All in all, then, it's worth seeing, especially if you remember to have patience with the first half an hour.
But for many, the unintentional irony of having a film about two recovering alcoholics shot by someone that is clearly inebriated will simply be too much.